Spirit wear … shoe sizes … parent and team emails … team check-in.
Student-athletes around the country have a sense of all four of those items in regards to being a part of an athletic program. Manchester University seniors Haley Duncan (Albion, Ind.) and Emma Voelker (North Bend, Ohio) took those themes up a notch this summer.
As news filtered throughout the Black and Gold volleyball family of former head coach Bryndon Paulsen returning to his alma mater in mid-July for a similar role, Director of Athletics Rick Espeset called Duncan into his office and told her there needed to be a plan in place to get information out to everyone and begin the process of getting ready for the 2018 season. Never having been one to back down from any challenge, she stepped in right away and enlisted the aid of Emma, her teammate, and friend.
"It's been way different," Duncan pointed out. "This entire process has made us appreciate what coaches do … it's not all about coaching in practice and matches."
"I got my eyes opened [through this process]," Voelker added. "There is so much ordering and reordering … keeping in contact with the freshmen because they and their families need information … keeping the rest of the team in the loop … While it's been hectic, I think we both have enjoyed this opportunity to show our leadership skills, and that, for me, will help when we get into practices and matches."
"I agree [with Emma in regards to the leadership side]," Duncan said. "I see the others on the team looking up to us to keep this going. We all want to have a great season."
Recently-hired interim head coach Ivan Matos has been glad to see the duo step up and get things going. He and the rest of the Spartans will hope to see that kind of initiative on the court from Duncan and Voelker, as Duncan is a returning all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honoree who powered over 200 kills at the opposition to the tune of a .214 attack percentage, and Voelker played a vital role in the middle with a respectable .154 attack percentage and 15 total blocks over 15 match appearances as a junior.
Matos has plenty of other offensive and defensive possibilities at hand, too. Senior middle hitter Hannah Tevis (Royal Center, Ind.), a former all-freshman HCAC honoree, has gone above 500 career kills and 150 career blocks as a staple along the front line; senior outside hitter Kaitlin Mindiola (Coatsville, Ind.) has seen action as a sophomore and junior; the senior-sophomore setters pair of Dakota Stanichuk (Athens, Mich.) and Lauren Gandhi (Westfield, Ind.) saw a lions share of the starts at their slot a year ago; and the defensive specialist/libero crew that includes junior Anna Marie Lawrie (Indianapolis, Ind.) and sophomores MacKenzie Rooks (Columbus, Ind.) and Alexandria Collins (Lowell, Ind.) proved difficult for opposing offenses to find attacking spaces last season.
"I think it comes down to playing more like one," Duncan said. "There've been times individuals have had good matches, but it never seems to gel together when we need it to."
"Hey, we want to get back into the conference tournament but also beat some of the top-tier teams likes Transylvania, Bluffton and so on," Voelker said. "We've been close before but never have gotten over the hump [against them]. That's a big goal."
While getting back into their usual roles as team members are something they both cherish, Duncan and Voelker have enjoyed their additional responsibilities.
"It's been stressful [at times]," Voelker admitted about the transition. "Being honest, there were some nights I went to sleep wondering if I'd be playing this year. None of us knew what would happen."
"I think we've both enjoyed [being part of getting thing ready]," Duncan added. "It's been nice to be able to do so and having a little more ownership [in the program]."
An opportunity to develop more and more appreciation for the operation of Manchester University volleyball … something Haley Duncan and Emma Voelker gladly accept and look to build upon.